On Sept 15, 2008,the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected Yellowstone’s latest winter use plan, in effect banning all snowmobiles & snowcoaches from Yellowstone National Park. Their stated reason was that the plan failed to protect wildlife against excessive noise and air pollution caused by snowmobiles. This argument seems a bit disingenuous considering the amount of autos, motorcycles and RV’s that jam the park’s roads all summer.
While unguided, unregulated snowmobiling in the park has created some bad consequences–speeding; going off the trails into delicate areas; excessive pollution; and causing animals to stampede–these areas have been addressed with the plan the Park Service has been operating under since 2003.
Under the winter use plan approved by the park service, up to 540 snowmobiles would have been allowed in the park per day. The snowmobiles would have to have a permitted guide with them in groups no larger than 10. The snowmobiles would have to stay on the roads and strictly obey the speed limit at all times. Each snowmoblie allowed in the park would have to be using the “best available technology” (BAT) for pollution control and sound dampening. In addition, the plan would have allowed for up to 83 Snowcoaches a day.
I think it’s a shame that fewer people will be able to enjoy the view of Old Faithful erupting in the winter, or to be able to take a walk around Black Sand Basin while snow falls around you. Yellowstone is completely different in the winter, and as one of our national treasures, the government should work to improve access, not curtail it.